Free cloud storage is a standard part of our daily lives. It comes packaged in smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
If you buy an Android device, you get 15GB of free Google Drive storage; any new Apple product comes with 5GB of free iCloud storage, and Windows users are of course saddled with around 15GB of OneDrive storage — on the house.
So, is all this complimentary space also risk-free? The answer is — kinda.
See, free cloud storage comes with the same risks as paid cloud storage, as a matter of fact; the three services pointed out above only differ in storage space when paid for, the risks and functionality remain identical.
But, the truth is, some unique risks do come with no-payment required online storage services. And we’ll be taking a look at them today. But, before we get going, it’s important to note that I don’t consider free-trial periods the same thing as free cloud storage.
- SugarSync (30-day free trial)
- Bitcasa (60-day free trial)
- ADrive (60-day free trial)
- Amazon Drive (90-day free trial)
Offer their services for a limited amount of days, alongside a limited amount of storage space. Free-trial period companies are not a good option to invest data in, and they force users to either stop using them or pay up.
Free storage services are perfectly acceptable, for an unlimited time, as long as you can make do with the provided space.
Top Five Issues With Free Cloud Storage
The first issue is privacy because most big cloud companies share user details. But it’s important to point out, that privacy and security are not the same thing.
Security deals with whether you’re hackable or not, privacy means a cloud company can’t snoop on what you’re uploading.
Which in reality is the norm of cloud storage services, every major provider such as:
Can view and share files.
However, there are cloud storage services such as:
And others which take privacy protection very seriously and do not retain any customer information.
In summary, free, mainstream cloud storage comes from companies that are not privacy-friendly.
2. Customer Support
Most, but not all, cloud and backup services will provide either chat, phone or ticket support to deal with any personal issues individual customers may have.
Unfortunately, you can’t call a customer support member when you’re using free cloud storage.
However, this isn’t always the case.
Sync.com, for example, provides an email interface with which to communicate — that sports a one hour response time promise.
Free cloud storage services don’t come with customer support. Though, that doesn’t mean support via forums, and other users aren’t available.
Just don’t expect to be treated like a paying customer, because you’re not one. But, most mainstream cloud options are very well made and work smoothly.
I can’t remember the last time Google Drive or Dropbox screwed up in such a way that wasn’t my PC or Internet connection’s fault.
3. Sudden Closure
This risk applies to entire companies and their free plans. Bitcasa has ended its free program completely, yet is still alive.
While Wuala took its free 5GB service, and itself, to the bottom of an endless abyss.
The point is, smaller cloud companies that provide free space can either revoke that privilege or shutdown themselves. Livedrive’s re-sellers have been shutting down rather often and quickly, which is why it’s a good idea to stick with big mainstream names.
The revocation of free plans is a highly unlikely scenario with big name providers.
But like OneDrive, they can sometimes reduce the amount due — in this particular case, it was dropped from 15GB to 5GB (caveats apply).
4. Crappy Encryption Options
The native encryption options available in free storage usually are non-existent or feeble.
Of course, a direct route around this problem is to encrypt data yourself, before uploading it to the free cloud storage service of your choice.
Encryption is a pretty significant factor of cloud storage, paid or free, and it’s something every user should know.
Even if you have no need or intention of encrypting data, it’s still a good idea to understand at least on a surface-level what it is, and its importance.
5. Redundancy and Outages
Happens to the best of the best, sometimes big name companies suffer outages, and that can affect your free storage. Although, outages and downtime are rare occurrences, so it shouldn’t be a very big deal.
To be entirely fair, though, this isn’t a risk exclusive to free plans, even paid ones can fall victim to outages.
A Quick Rundown of The Positives
I don’t want you to walk away with the impression that free cloud storage is a particularly risky endeavor, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.
So, I’m going to highlight the major benefits which come hand-in-parcel with using free plans to store data.
Combined Free Storage
Now, combining individual free cloud storage plans into one package, will exponentially increase the amount available. There are online services which will create a single universal inbox for various cloud accounts.
Free Sharing and Collaboration
Nothing beats Google Drive when it comes to online collaboration features, and of course, Dropbox is ubiquitous across a majority of digital platforms, so sharing is super easy.
Syncing Across Devices
Cloud storage, even the free kind, provides users the ability to access their documents across multiple devices, and all that’s needed is a web connection.
Using a company’s free storage or backup plan is a great way to experience how it works and feels, and doing so multiple times, with different services can provide a decent range of experience.
It’s a great way to ensure you honestly pick a company that’s suited to your needs and wants.
More HDD Space…for Free!
Obviously, the more free cloud storage space there is to spare; the more likely your HDD isn’t going to be filled up.
There aren’t many risks in the cloud scene which are unique to free plans, however, feel free to check out the shared pros and cons of cloud storage, regardless of pay-tier.
So, to summarize, is free cloud storage also risk-free? For the most part; yes it is.
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After all, it is designed to keep our precious digital data safe and free from the harms of a physical world, right? Of course, the true risk lies in not properly planning and setting a backup space, both locally and in the cloud.
Feel free to share your experiences with free tier plans, and what happened after upgrading them to paid plans, in the comments section below.